Instant messaging venture Hike acquires free voice-calling app Zip Phone

Hike, the instant messaging (IM) app service from BSB (Bharti SoftBank, a joint venture between Bharti Group and Japan’s SoftBank), has acquired free voice calling app from US-based Thought Mechanics Inc for an undisclosed sum.

Interestingly, this would also compete with Bharti Airtel's own core mobile service. Hike is also competing with SMS service provided by Airtel among other cellular service providers. The venture, however, adds to data service earnings of all mobile operators.

This is the first acquisition by Hike, and is aimed at expanding its product range in the internet-based communication space.

“From day one, we’ve strongly believed that through communication, we can bring India online. With the acquisition we take one more step towards that mission. Zip Phone’s technology will allow us to bring free voice calling to the market much faster. Incidentally, this is one of the top requested features from our users as well. We can't wait to launch this,” said Kavin Bharti Mittal, founder and CEO of Hike.

Launched by Anuj Jain, Zip Phone is a voice-calling app that can automatically detects one’s contacts, and intelligently routes the call through 3G or Wi-Fi. The startup was incubated at Silicon Valley-based based Y Combinator.

“As a startup enthusiast, I had been keeping a close eye on Hike and its developments and I am excited to now be a part of one of the biggest and fastest growing startups in the Indian internet space and finally, building for India,” said Jain.

Founded in July 2012 by Kavin (one of the sons of Bharti Group chief Sunil Mittal), Hike is a peer-to-peer (P2P) messaging app that uses both data and SMS to deliver messages. Hike is one of the leading mobile apps based out of India with around 35 million users. Close to 90 per cent of its users are Indians aged below 25 years.

One of the key features of Hike is that those who don’t have Hike on their phones can still receive an instant message as an SMS. One can also respond to it but have to pay normal SMS charges for that.

Hike is competing with a slew of IM apps that include WhatsApp, which claims to have around 70 million users in India, besides Facebook Messenger, Viber, Google Talk, China’s WeChat, Japan’s Line and Nimbuzz in India.

Last September, Hike had secured $65 million (Rs 400 crore) in funding from a group of overseas investors led by Tiger Global Management.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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